Public safety panel considers uniforms for crossing guards

The city council’s committee on public safety is seriously looking into the possibility of putting the city’s school crossing guards into uniforms as one way of “elevating” the position that too often is taken for granted by the public at large.

At a committee session held late last week, Ald. Robert Van Campen, as he has done in the past, once again made a strong pitch for the city to provide its 26 crossing guards with uniforms.  The Ward Five alderman maintained that uniforms are needed as a first step in raising the “visible authority” status of the crossing guards, who too often  aren’t getting the proper amount of respect and compliance from motorists.

Ald. Van Campen stated that outfitting the crossing guards with appropriate uniforms would go a long way towards improving that situation.

Quipping that “the city seems to spend money on everything else”, including things that aren’t anywhere near as important and vital to public safety as are the crossing guards, the veteran alderman urged Police Chief Steve Mazzie to support his plan.

Mazzie noted that the local crossing guards currently are provided with “high visibility” vests. He opined that the “cost would be substantial” to put them into full uniforms.  The chief also claimed that the “vast majority” of communities statewide don’t uniform their crossing guards.  However, Chief Mazzie added that “if the money is provided [for the uniforms], I’ll have no problem with doing it.”

Three local crossing guards spoke at the committee meeting, each of whom noted how difficult—and at times, how dangerous—their job is, because they don’t appear to be a legitimate authority figure.

Frank Adams, who’s been a crossing guard for 12 years, said he feels that uniforms would greatly improve their status in the eyes of the public. “It’s a matter of respectability,” he claimed.

Councillor Michael McLaughlin raised the possibility of asking the crossing guard personnel to adhere to what he called a “self dress code,” but that concept was not pursued for lack of support on the committee. McLaughlin then asked the police chief if giving the crossing guards a special badge would help matters. Chief Mazzie was lukewarm to the idea, making it clear that the crossing guards “don’t have any police powers.”

Ald. Michael Marchese came out in full support of uniforms for the crossing guards. “It’s something that has to be seriously considered,” said the Ward Three alderman.

Ald. Van Campen said it’s his opinion that there is significant support within the city council on the uniform issue.  He said to Chief Mazzie, “I’m imploring you to work with the administration on this matter.”

The police chief said he was willing to get a cost estimate for the uniforms and will have it ready for submission at the next public safety committee meeting.